Dr. James Knierim is a Professor of Neuroscience and the Vice-Chair for Education in the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His research focuses on the neurophysiology of memory in the hippocampal formation. Dr. Knierim is a researcher at the Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute at Johns Hopkins.
His work investigates the information processing that occurs in different stages of the hippocampus, from the input representations of the entorhinal cortex through the different subregions within the hippocampus. Specific questions include how the medial entorhinal cortex uses path integration to construct the framework for a cognitive map of the environment; how the lateral entorhinal cortex represents information about the external world; and how the hippocampus combines information from these two inputs to create context-dependent representations of experience that can be efficiently stored and retrieved as long-term, episodic memories. These questions are also addressed in aged rats, to investigate the mechanisms of cognitive decline in aging and the mechanisms by which certain individuals are more resilient to this decline.
After graduating from Haverford College with a B.A. in psychology, he obtained his Ph.D. in neurobiology at the California Institute of Technology, where he studied the primate visual system with David Van Essen. He then did a postdoctoral fellowship with Bruce McNaughton at the University of Arizona, where he studied the spatial firing characteristics of place cells and head direction cells of the rat hippocampus and limbic system. In 1998, he started his own laboratory in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. He joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2009.